Big Walnut Roundup: Freshmen giving Golden Eagles girls track and field team early lift

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Autumn Newman is part of a strong freshman class that has made an early impact for the Big Walnut girls track and field team. She finished second in the shot put April 3 at the Newark Invitational.

Big Walnut girls track and field coach Joe Evener describes it as a “wonderful problem to have.”

While the Golden Eagles are a young team with freshmen accounting for nearly half of the 53-athlete roster, many of those ninth-graders already are scoring at meets, including the April 3 Newark Invitational, where Big Walnut finished third (84.5 points) of eight teams behind Granville (123) and Mount Vernon (86).

“They have done some outstanding work so far,” said Evener, whose team hosted the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays on April 10. “The future looks really, really bright. The freshman and sophomore classes make up the bulk of our team.”

Freshman Autumn Newman finished second in the shot put (32 feet, 9 inches) at Newark behind Heath’s Kennedi Bailey (39-3).

In the sprint events, freshman Alexus Roberts was part of the 400-meter relay, which included senior Lindsey Luchsinger, junior Estella Truax and sophomore Abbey Danne and finished second (54.66 seconds) behind Groveport (54.4).

Freshman Avery Deringer helped the 800 relay, which also included Luchsinger, Danne and Truax, take second (1:54.55) behind Groveport (1:54.28).

Roberts even added a school record to her early results. She joined senior MacKenna Ames, junior Cindy Serna and sophomore Maci Ames on the 400 shuttle hurdles relay that finished second (1:05.29) behind Eastmoor Academy (1:05.06) in the March 27 Northland Invitational.

The time broke a school record (1:06.66) that had stood for 25 years.

“This might be the strongest hurdle crew that we’ve ever had,” Evener said.

Junior Grace Grunewald (3,200), sophomores River Hamilton (3,200) and Gianna Rose-Romosier (1,600) and freshmen Kylie Brandt (1,600) and Kaylyn Huber (800) will be among the competitors in distance events.

Senior Mia Smith (long jump), juniors Sydney Foxworthy (high jump, long jump) and Kassandra Swank (shot put, discus) and sophomore Maci Ames (discus) are competing in field events.

GIRLS TRACK & FIELD

Coach: Joe Evener, 26th season

Next meet: April 13 at Marion Harding

Key athletes: MacKenna Ames, Maci Ames, Abbey Danne, Grace Grunewald, Lindsey Luchsinger, Autumn Newman, Alexus Roberts and Estella Truax

Junior Aidan Hernandez throws the discus during the Newark Invitational on April 3. He is expected to be one of the Golden Eagles' top competitors in the field events.

Boys team features 

depth, leadership

Early meets have given first-year boys track coach Ryan Borland a reason to be optimistic.

“We’ve got some depth, which is a good thing to have right now, and good senior leadership,” he said. “I like the way we’ve competed, and I think it’s going to be a fun year.”

Borland spent 12 years as Westerville Central’s girls track coach and completed his 13th season as the Warhawks’ cross country coach last fall. He replaced Eric Myers, who led the Golden Eagles for 13 seasons.

Borland’s daughter, 2020 Big Walnut graduate Colbi Borland, was a standout in cross country and track for the Golden Eagles.

“We’re trying to put everything together, which is what I enjoy the most about coaching — finding out where guys can have success,” Borland said.

Big Walnut features senior leadership in nearly every event.

Senior Mark Ruffing was first in the shot put (129-8) in the Newark Invitational, where Big Walnut finished second (137) of eight teams behind Thomas Worthington (139).

Senior Owen Wilhelm (high jump), juniors Aidan Hernandez (shot put, discus) and Ryan Tripp (high jump, long jump) and sophomore Grant Coulson (long jump) also are expected to be among Big Walnut’s top competitors in field events.

On the track, the Golden Eagles are a diverse group with many seniors and a core group of freshmen, Borland said.

Senior John Embaugh was first (51.86) in the 400 at Newark, and senior Jayden McConnell (51.94) was a close second.

“I was super excited about those finishes,” Borland said. “That was a career best for both kids. I think getting a chance to start with them in the winter season has really helped us.”

Junior Shane White finished third in both the 100 (11.43) and 200 (23.5), and Junior Alec Carr is expected to lead the way in the 110 and 300 hurdles.

In middle-distance events, senior Jake Ross (800) is among the top competitors, as is junior Christopher Lee in distance events.

BOYS TRACK & FIELD

Coach: Ryan Borland, first season

Next meet: April 13 at Marion Harding

Key athletes: Alec Carr, Grant Coulson, John Embaugh, Aidan Hernandez, Christopher Lee, Jake Ross, Mark Ruffing, Shane White and Owen Wilhelm

Boys tennis team 

defining roles

Eighth-year boys tennis coach Ryan Balaz expects to be trying different lineups after the Golden Eagles opened the season April 1 with a 5-0 victory against host Mount Vernon.

“A lot of guys haven’t played a match since 2019 and then we have a lot of players who are at the same ability level,” Balaz said. “We’re going to be seeing where they fit best for the team. I think three-quarters of the team were playing their first high school match (against Mount Vernon).”

In 2019, a trio of underclassmen helped lead Big Walnut, which finished 11-9 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital.

Those three — juniors Grant Mudre and Andrew Grubb and senior Charlie Jaeger — are back to lead what Balaz describes as “probably the most talented boys team that I’ve ever had.”

Others competing for spots include seniors Isaiah Lott, Brayden Buchs and Alex Fletcher, sophomore Evan Fisher and freshmen Jeevan Conduru and Garrett Irvine.

Big Walnut opened OCC-Capital Division play April 6 by defeating Delaware 3-2.

BOYS TENNIS

Coach: Ryan Balaz, eighth season

Next match: April 12 at Olentangy Orange

Key athletes: Andrew Grubb, Grant Mudre and Charlie Jaeger

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